Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Can You Talk Back To A Famous Author?


“You can’t teach people to write well.”

I barely scratched the surface on this topic back in September in the post, The “Self”-Education of Writers . . .

That quote about not being able to teach someone to write well is from an article by Kurt Vonnegut back in 1967—Teaching the Unteachable

I thought of putting a few more snippets from the article here but then saw a thread on Google Plus about it.

So to get you in the mood to either agree with Kurt or argue with him, I’ll put a few of the comments from that thread here:

Brian Meeks 19:33
I loved that article! Thanks so much for posting it. I live near, and work (occasionally) in Iowa City. That may be part of why I liked the article, but mostly I just enjoyed…what else…the writing.
I especially enjoyed the bit about poetry writers v. prose writers.
Great find!

William Morton 19:49
KV’s essay is flawed from the first line forward. I would reference the work of Betty Edwards. KV was a cranky old fart. People can be learnt to write better.

Amy Knepper 20:15
to Monika Ullian — Considering I married a preacher and I’m approaching middle life, there were several points I thought were jaded and condescending. I got a chuckle out of it though. At least I can recognize it (and my local writers guild is full of the same combination of people).

Renee Bennett 21:23
I’m minded of a comment from somewhere (sorry, don’t remember who at the moment) that very cynically divided writing groups into two classes of people: those who wanted to write, and those who wanted to have written.

Torah Cottrill 21:39
Best quote: The idea of a conference for prose writes is an absurdity. They don’t confer, can’t confer. It’s all they can do to drag themselves past one another like great, wounded bears.

Check out the thread on G+ for more… [Edit: since I first wrote this the thread responses have grown :-) ]

So what’s your take—Can creative writing be taught??
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8 responses to “Can You Talk Back To A Famous Author?

  1. Barbara Blackcinder March 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I think your creative ideas can be brought out by teaching, as well as how to present those ideas to someone else. Obviously punctuation and grammar can be taught as well but shouldn’t be too creative. Creativity may be within yourself, maybe not expressible without assistance, or perhaps not even existent within a person, but how to write creatively, probably teachable.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks for weighing in on the discussion, Barbara :-)

      Rather interesting that you speculate that some folks may not have creativity?

      Like

      • Barbara Blackcinder March 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        Only as a possibility, not an absolute.

        Like

        • Alexander M Zoltai March 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm

          Thanks for that clarification Barb…

          Like

  2. Elizabeth N Thompson (@Mermaid_Tale) March 27, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I agree with Barb. :) Sometimes you just need a little help.
    I think lots of people have amazing stories inside of them and even the will to tell them. They just don’t know how to get it out and then organized so that everything makes sense.
    Having something to say and not knowing how to say it is so frustrating. I’m not sure if a Creative Writing teacher helps with that or not. At any rate, never say never. My mom always told me that if you want something enough and you’re willing to put in the work, you can make it happen.

    P.S. For some reason, I felt like the writer of the original article was rolling his eyes a lot while he was penning the piece. hahaha ;)

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 27, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Elizabeth, Great to see ya here—Happy Wednesday :-)

      I do believe you’re right about Mr. Vonnegut being a bit ironic and perhaps exaggerating for effect

      The verdict on Creative Writing Teachers, from my perspective, is all over the map but there are a number of Authors who say it didn’t help them—reading other authors is often hailed as the best way to learn

      Like

  3. Elizabeth N Thompson (@Mermaid_Tale) March 27, 2013 at 9:56 am

    RE

    Renee Bennett 21:23
    I’m minded of a comment from somewhere (sorry, don’t remember who at the moment) that very cynically divided writing groups into two classes of people: those who wanted to write, and those who wanted to have written.

    *I think the amendment to this quotation should be…
    …three classes of people 1) Those who wanted to write. 2) Those who wanted to have written. 3)Those who wanted to be read.

    :) haha

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 27, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Excellent !!! :-)

      Like

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